One of the Greatest Dangers Facing Our Christian Young People Today

Having been raised in church since I was born, I had heard about Jesus and the gospel since day one.  It’s all I’d ever known.

I can vaguely remember kneeling at my mom’s bedside at the age of 4, praying a prayer, and making a ‘profession of faith’.  However, my profession never extended beyond my knowledge, because the gospel had never changed me. I had never truly been born again.

However, when I was 12 years old, The gospel become very real to me personally. God began doing a work of conviction in my heart, and it was at that time that I allowed the gospel’s transformational power to change me, as I genuinely called upon the name of the Lord to be saved.

Our kids KNOW the Gospel…

Most kids raised in church have the privilege of being used to hearing the gospel.  In fact, they know it so well they could probably recite it forwards and backwards.  They’re told about God’s love and how Jesus died for them even while they’re still in diapers in the nursery.

And as they grow, they hear it taught in Sunday School and in Children’s Church. And they’re even able to quote verses from the Roman’s Road.  They hear regularly about the amazing power of the gospel to change lives. And this is a good thing.

And yet… many of them grow up so accustomed to the gospel that its familiarity has the underlying potential to breed an inadvertent apathy towards it, to the point that it often has little to no impact upon their everyday lives.  Many of them having either never experienced the transformational power of the gospel firsthand in their own lives, or having never allowed it to transform every facet of their daily lives and choices.

So what is one of the GREATEST DANGERS facing our Christian young people today?…

The gospel is so common that it just becomes old hat, and as a result, one of the greatest dangers facing our Christian kids is this – they’ve gotten “used to” the gospel.

What God intended to radically transform ours and our children’s thinking and living, actually has the potential to become all too familiar, all too fast, to the point that we forget (at least by our actions) that the gospel is the one thing God has given us to change both ourselves and to change the world around us. (Rom. 1:16, Eph. 2:1-10)

God’s plan has always been that the gospel would shape our identity, determine our priorities, and affect every decision we make in life (about what we say, how we react, what we listen to, where we go, who we associate with, etc.)

A driving PASSION of their life, or just a PART of their life?…

The gospel was never meant to be compartmentalized into just a part of our lives, but rather, that there be no part of our lives that remains untouched by the gospel.  

The gospel is meant to define life for us, while at the same time defining us for life.

It is not to be a casual part of life, but rather a commitment that requires our willingness to die for it, and even more importantly, our passion to live for it throughout the process of everyday, ordinary life.

Yet, so often, if we’re not intentional, our kids (and ourselves) can get so used to the gospel that it becomes more of a necessary evil of life rather than a transformational reason for living. It becomes simply another relic added to the shelf of our family traditions, rather than the entire foundation upon which our children build their very lives.  

Let’s face it… we all know “Christians” who’s priorities and decisions give little to no indication of real or dramatic life change because of the gospel.  However, have we ever stopped to consider that this could be happening in our own homes and in the hearts and lives of our own children? Just because ours is a “Christian” family, does not give us any guarantees. Because life change for our children requires much more than just a label. 

My wife and I now have 2 teenagers in our house (please pray for us).  And although I’m thankful that my kids have grown up hearing the gospel all of their lives, I don’t ever want them to “get used to the gospel”.  I want it first to change them through the power of salvation, but then also through the ongoing process of sanctification, and allowing the gospel to be the filter through which they view every detail of their daily lives.

So how is a Christian parent to do this?… That is, raise “Christian” kids who don’t get over the fact they are Christians?

While ultimately, we know that this requires the supernatural touch of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives (first and foremost through salvation), here are some practical ways and ideas we’ve tried as parents to help our kids, and especially our teens, to never “get used to” the life-changing, transformational power of the gospel.

  1. Send them on a mission’s trip.  Our oldest two children were able to be a part of a mission’s trip to Grenada last summer, and it was a life-changing experience for both of them. I’m convinced that there is very little else that has the potential to change a teenager’s perspective about their purpose in the world and in God’s kingdom than to put them into such an environment of less.  Sending your child on a mission’s trip forces them to come face to face with the reality of what really matters in life.
  2. Expose them to the lost.  If we’re not careful, we can easily over-insulate our children from the lost world to the point of isolating them from it as well.  Our children desperately need to see firsthand just how greatly they are needed for the cause of the gospel. Because our children will rarely ever have a burden to reach others with the gospel if they aren’t ever surrounded by or exposed to others who desperately need it.  Whether you encourage your kids to make friends with unsaved neighbors, those at school, or witness publicly together as a family, find ways to expose your kids to the lost world all around them.  Our two oldest recently detasselled for the first time, and our son often enjoys paint-balling at a local course.  Both of these exposures have been an eye-opening experience for them of the sinful lifestyles and lost condition of many teenagers today.  In addition, it’s also given them a burden for these same people.  (As always, use discretion as the parent for what you know to be best for your specific child, and never use this as justification for allowing your children to be regularly surrounded by worldly influences).
  3. Help surround them with other people whose lives have been changed by the gospel.  Nothing motivates us to be changed by the gospel as much as rubbing shoulders with others whose lives have been, and are actively being, changed by the gospel.  
  4. Challenge them to read, read, and read some more.  Start by motivating them to get into the Word of God for themselves so that the Bible becomes real to them during this crucial age of the teenage years.  Also, give them some good books to read.  Here’s a great book my wife and I recently bought for our two teens and required them to read – This Changes Everything: How The Gospel Transforms the Teen Years.
  5. Require them to be involved in serving in their local church.  If they aren’t serving when they’re a teen, why should we expect that they’ll be serving or passionate about the gospel when they’re an adult and out of our home?  There’s a reason why 50% of our “Christian” young people are leaving the church once they leave high school.  And a big part of it is because the gospel has never become real to them either practically or personally while they were still at home.  They’ve never learned to possess their own faith.
  6. Never “get used to” the Gospel as a parent yourself.  If the gospel has not truly transformed not only your soul, but your everyday life and choices, don’t expect it to transform your children any more than you have allowed it to first transform you.  Because more than your kids will become what you say, they will become who you are.

“The greatest way for the gospel to change the hearts and lives of children is for it first to change the heart and lives of their parents.”

Once our children’s lives become radically changed and defined by the gospel, so many other details of their life and future fall into place concerning their priorities and decisions. 

We have been put “in trust with the gospel” and its life-changing power, for ourselves, our children, and the lost all around us. (I Thess. 2:4)  May we never take that lightly.  And may we never “get used to it.”

Do you agree that this is one of the greatest dangers facing our Christian young people today? Feel free to let me know.  I’d love to hear from you.

Mom & Dad, Please Get to Know Me

My youngest son and I just spent a week together conducting our final VBS of the summer.  We had a blast, and while we were away, I asked him a list of questions to get to know him better, as well as to see how well I really know him.  While I thought I’d ace this, some of his answers actually surprised me.

Shane & I about to board a plane to Lubbock, TX for our final VBS of the summer.

If you have children, you probably know them pretty well too… or at least you think you do.

Sometimes we’re convinced that we know our own kids better than anyone else, but if we really stop to evaluate ourselves, we might just find out that we don’t know them quite as well as we think, or as we should.

One of our primary goals as parents is not just to raise our children, but to know them.

It’s easy to get so busy taking care of our children, that we can lose track of many of the important details of their lives.

God gave them to us to guide through life, and this requires that we study them, learn them, and know them to the best of our ability.  Their wants, desires, needs, and special quirks should be things that we both know and understand better than anyone else.

Learning to know our children can be a life-long process, but a very worthy one.  So here is a list of basic questions/statements for you to try and answer to see how well you know your child.  Pick up a pen, and start filling in answers: (printable pdf available by clicking on the image)

After filling out your answers to all of the above questions, ask your child their responses to the same questions, then compare and discuss your answers together.

My son got quite a kick out of seeing how many answers I got right (and how many I got wrong). He thought is was super fun to see how well dad knows him.  And we had some great discussion as well.  I’m sure your kids will love it too.

Don’t be surprised if you get stumped along the way.  Just have fun.  And remember, the goal is simply to get to know your child better.  And believe me, you will.

I Became a Better Parent the Day I Realized THIS…

Before becoming a parent, I can remember watching parents of young children and saying things to myself like, “My kids will never act that way” or “I won’t ever let my child get away with that.”  Can you relate?

In those early years prior to actually becoming a parent, it was very easy to be an “expert” in parenting and know all that there was to know about how to raise kids right.  I could have easily counseled parents if they’d have just trusted me (and my single, childless self. Lol). In fact, I think I may have even tried a time or two to coach my own parents in how to raise my younger sisters.

But my oh my, how the tables turn when you actually have children of your own and find out that your own kids are as bent towards foolishness (Prov. 22:15) as everyone else’s, whose parents just “didn’t have it all together”.

The longer I’ve been a parent, the less that I feel I know about being a great parent, and the less qualified I feel to be a parent at all.  Because there is so much to learn around every new corner and with every new age and stage. Parenting is a never-ending series of new challenges and choices. 

“Remind me, why am I the one writing this blog?”…  

I have the privilege of writing this parenting blog about how to parent your children God’s way, and I love doing it.  Yet I often feel so very inadequate just to be the godly parent that my own children need me to be on a daily basis.  

So many times I don’t know what to do in my own family. So many times I mess up and don’t get things right. So many times I fall short of being the parent they need me to be.

Yes, I know the rights and wrongs of parenting, as do you, but struggle just the same to actually be consistent to do them. I get frustrated, irritable, impatient, selfish, tired, and lazy. Just ask my wife and kids. 🙂 

Sometimes I hurt my family’s feelings. I’m sometimes too harsh. I’m sometimes too lenient. I don’t always give as much time to my kids as I should. I struggle to be consistent in discipline. Sometimes I get so frustrated at my inability to be all that I want to be and all that God and my family deserves that I be as a husband and a father. 

All in all, I find that I can’t be successful at this parenting thing on my own… and yet, that’s when I actually succeed.  You see, it’s in those times when I realize that I can’t be the parent that my kids need me to be… that I actually become a better parent than what I just was.

I am my best self as a parent when I simply admit that I don’t have it all together, I don’t always know what to do, and I need the constant help and grace of God in my daily life to be the godly parent He has called me to be. 

A+B doesn’t always = C

Yes, there are parenting principles that work and that need to be followed and obeyed, yet there is no foolproof A+B=C formula that guarantees our desired results in our kids every single time, in every single circumstance, or every single family. 

I need to daily depend upon the grace of God and the guidance of His Holy Spirit in my life. Because there are things that happen in my family and decisions I have to make that no amount of biblical or parenting knowledge could every prepare me for.  

Of all things in life, I believe that parenting is one of God’s ways of revealing to us our own insufficiency and our utmost dependency upon Him.  

And parenting should be one of the greatest things in life that drives us to our knees.  It ought to cause us to plead with God for wisdom and direction as we we take seriously the responsibility of raising and forming little human lives.  

I became a better parent the day I realized… 

While I’m not the parent that I want to be or fully need to be, I became a better parent the day I realized that:

  • I don’t know how to be a good and godly parent on my own.
  • I need more of God and less of me in my parenting.
  • I cannot ultimately control who and what my children become.
  • I am helpless and hopeless as a parent apart from the grace of God.

Apart from Him, no matter what I do and no matter what I know, I can quickly become a parenting failure and mess up this parenting thing big-time. But with Him, I can do all things through Christ.  

The day I became a better parent was the day I began to trust more than I try, pray more than I push, and quit trying to act like l’ve got it all together. Because I don’t. I never will. And neither will you. And the sooner we realize it, the better parents we will become.   

II Corinthians 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities… for when I am weak, then am I strong.

5 Reasons You’re Struggling to Say YES to Your Kids

Have you ever found yourself bombarded with questions from your kids asking you to do things with them?  Rhetorical question, right? Kids naturally ask a ton of questions, and especially requests for your time and attention. 

“Dad, will you come and play this game with me?”

“Mom, will you watch me and see what I can do?”

“Can we go on a bike ride?”

“Will you help me build this?”

“Can we watch a movie together?”

“Do you want to play outside?”

And when they ask, let’s admit that the internal struggle is often very real, because while you want to say yes, they just never seem to ask at “convenient” times.

Do you find yourself at times struggling to say “Yes” to your kids like I do? We want so badly to say “yes”, and yet there’s something else inside of us pulling us in the opposite direction to say “no”.  The struggle is real.  But so are their needs.

Here are 5 reasons you might be struggling to say “Yes” to your kids:

  1. You’re too busy “adult-ing”.  We get so preoccupied with our busy little life of adulthood that we feel “put out” by our own children’s requests for our time and attention. It ought not be this way.
  2. You’ve forgotten what it was like to be a kid.  Can you go back in your mind to that carefree feeling of childhood?  Can you remember how fun life was and how big a deal it was to you when someone older, especially your parents, said “yes” to you.  It was a big deal to you.  And it’s a big deal to your children right now.
  3. Your priorities are wrong.  If you don’t feel like you can ever say “yes” to your kids when they want to spend time with you, it doesn’t matter what your excuses are, your priorities are totally out of whack.
  4. You’ve lost sight of what is most important. It’s so natural and so easy to focus on the urgent things at the expense of the most important things in life, and especially when our children are young.  Work time quickly replaces family time, and the mandates of our adulthood quickly replace potential memories of our kids’ childhood.
  5. You’ve believed the lie that “you still have plenty of time”.  And if you believe it enough days and months and years in a row, before you know it, you’ve missed an entire childhood.  With every moment that passes, they only get older. They never get younger.

So here’s a “YES” challenge for you.  Are you ready for it? – See if you can go the next 7 days, one week, without saying “no” to your children when they make any request of your time or attention. Do you think you can say “yes” for 7 days straight, dropping whatever it is that would keep you from saying yes?  It sounds easy, but it might just be harder than you think.

  • Every time they want to play ball in the backyard.
  • Every time they ask you to look at their project.
  • Every time they as for your help.
  • Every time they want to talk, or for you to simply listen.
  • Every time they reach for a hug.
  • Every time they ask you to tuck them in.
  • Every time they want more of you.
  • Every. Single. Time.

Will it inconvenience you? Almost certainly.  Will it be difficult? Probably.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.

May we never forget that our kids want us, they need us, and they deserve us.

Even if you don’t get it perfect for 7 days straight, try it, and see if it makes a positive impact on your kids.  They’re counting on you to be a YES Parent in the ways that matter most.

5 Reasons You’re Struggling to Say NO to Your Kids

I’m a firm believer in saying “yes” to my kids whenever possible, especially when they make requests for my time and attention. However, one of the biggest struggles for many parents nowadays is that they have a hard time, or are simply unwilling, to tell their children “No”.  

We have a generation of kids who are not used to being told no, or being denied much of anything that their hearts desire. Sadly, this not only has the potential to lead to a dangerous attitude of entitlement, but also to a dangerous and destructive way of life. 

Proverbs 29:15&17  The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame… Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

The Bible is clear that children need loving reproof, supervision, guidance and correction. Yet, sometimes parents seemingly get tongue-tied when it comes to restraining or reproving their own kids, and afraid to tell them “No”.

Here are 5 reasons why you might be struggling to tell your kids “No”:

  1. You’re afraid of hurting their feelings. We know that our little angels don’t like to be told “no”, so we fear hurting their feelings, and as a result, we don’t tell them no, often when they need to hear it most.
  2. You’re afraid of the repercussions. You know what to expect that will follow if they don’t get their way, and so it’s so much easier to give in than to say “no” and have to stand your ground, especially when you’re in public.
  3. You’ve become more of a pacifier than an enforcer. You’ve found out that it’s easier to just give in to your child’s demands, rather than stirring up the pot, so that you can manage to “keep the peace”. So rather than enforcing your expectations, you’ve settled for pacifying them and their misbehavior.
  4. You’re not the one in the driver’s seat. You may not realize it yet, but they do.  They already know that you’re not the one who’s calling the shots. They are. That’s why they’re often the ones telling you “No”, instead of the other way around.
  5. You’ve convinced yourself that they’re “just being kids”. They’ll grow out of it, right? They won’t always be this selfish or defiant or demanding? Well…  The sooner you step in and step up to be their parent by correcting them when necessary, the sooner they will “give thee rest; yea, and give delight unto thy soul.”

I’ve said it before, but oh, how it still rings true for any parent who will heed it… Be your child’s parent now, so you can be your child’s friend forever… Too many parents choose to be more of a friend than a parent, when their kids need a parent, not a friend.  Parent your kids for 18 years, and you can enjoy the fruit of their friendship for a lifetime.

A big part of being their parent now is learning how to successfully and unapologetically say “No”.

And of course, the only way to be successful with your “No” is to be prepared to stand your ground and enforce it unapologetically with appropriate consequences. The worse thing a parent could possibly do is tell their children no and then fail to follow through by allowing their child to still get their way.  Parents must win those small battles now, otherwise face an even bigger fallout in the future. 

Never underestimate the power of this truth… “Training up your children right in the younger years will set you up for parenting success in the older years.”

5 Reasons Why Your Family Needs to Go Camping Soon

Enjoying the positive benefits of family camping

This is a guest post from my friend, Pasquale R. Mingarelli. Pasquale spent 11 years on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru) and currently works as a Christian speaker, adjunct college instructor, and nature photographer. He posts a photo and Bible verse each day on his blog site, where he also writes about encountering God in the outdoors. You can connect with Pasquale on Twitter. 

People stay so connected these days that we actually stay more disconnected. The smart phone always seems to be far too near and the conversation with the person next to us seems to be so far away. Unfortunately, this battle with disconnected connectivity occurs in most families.

Electronic technology rips at our families. Many families set boundaries on its use, but it still finds ways to interrupt life. Technology does carry a lot of value, however finding time to completely escape from it carries many benefits. One way to experience these benefits is by taking family camping trips.

New scientific studies backup the compounding rewards camping adds to our modern, enclosed, sedentary lifestyle (source), (source), (source). For families, the benefits go beyond just the science. Here is a list of a few of them.

Downtime from electronic connectivity

Camping trips make for the perfect opportunity to lay aside electronic devices. In many campgrounds the devices won’t connect, so why not just turn them off completely. Adults experience less stress when we turn them off and kids make nature their toy with imaginations that come alive.

Real connectivity

Camping builds family bonds by having to work together. So much about camping takes everyone lending a hand. Essential tasks like setting up camp and making meals take team work. And a day of camping never comes to an end until someone builds a fire. Renewed bonding occurs while munching on s’mores and hanging out around a campfire.

Connectivity with nature

Our kids loved to hike. They were on hiking trails with us before they could even walk. On one of our adventures to Minnesota, we went on a mushroom hike with a park guide. Our six-year old daughter loved finding the multitude of mushrooms that popped out of the forest. And would a little boy’s life be complete without skipping rocks across a creek or lake?

Connectivity with natural wonders and people of the past

Camping road trips make for a great way to experience historic places and natural wonders. My family and I had a memorial encounter with a herd of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. While parked on high mountain road to watch the sunset, a large herd of female elk and their calves wandered through just a few yards in front of us. It made a memory and experience one just can’t get in Disney World.

Connectivity with God

God reveals Himself to us through His creation. Romans 1:20 tells His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature can be understood through what has been made. When we spend time in the outdoors with our our families, we can use nature as a tool to point to God’s attributes. Nature also provides the perfect quiet place to teach our children how to spend alone time with God.

Whether in a tent, camper or cabin, both summer and fall make for good time to camp. Where would you and your family like to go?

Are You Being Fair to Your Pastor & Your Ministry?  

4 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself

Church staff members have the potential to be a vitally important part of any church, adding value and quality to the ministry.

However, they also carry with them the potential to become a weight or burden to a church. Especially if they are not producing and growing both themselves and the ministry they oversee.

Every person who serves in full-time ministry, as pastor or staff, must constantly be striving to lead better by becoming better, and grow their ministry by first growing themselves. I’ve been privileged to work under two senior pastors who have done this exceptionally well through example, and encouraged their staff to do the same.

If you serve in a staff capacity where you are being paid by the tithes and offerings of the generous people of your church, here are four thought-provoking questions to consider (I’m sure there could be many more) to help evaluate if you’re being fair to your pastor and your ministry?

1. What is the last book I’ve read specific to my ministry or growth development?

(Maybe for some, the question would suffice, “What is the last book I’ve read?”) Whatever area of ministry you’ve been called to serve in, most likely its because you have a passion for that area of ministry. What are you currently reading to increase your knowledge of and passion for the things God has gifted you to do and placed closest to your heart?

Are you a better and more knowledgeable worship leader, children’s or youth pastor, assistant pastor, etc. than you were a year ago… 5 years ago? Consider this… if the average book consists of 10-15 chapters, and you dedicate yourself to reading just one chapter a day, you could easily read two new books per month.

While the number of books you read or don’t read certainly isn’t a ‘tell all’ of your success or failure towards your pastor and your ministry, it can certainly can be something worth evaluating.  Harry Truman once wisely said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  The truth is that God has called us to excel in our ministries.  Reading and it’s many benefits can undeniably help accomplish that.

2. Am I personally growing as a leader?

The greatest asset your ministry has to become successful is you, because you are the cap to your ministry’s growth. Your ministry or organization will rarely ever grow or develop beyond your own personal growth and development as a leader. The more you grow and the better you become, the more your ministry or organization will benefit.

So what are you intentionally doing to grow in your leadership skills? Are you attending any conferences, listening to any podcasts, following any thought leaders in your specific field? Are you being teachable by allowing your senior pastor or others to “grow” you in any area that they see room for improvement?

There’s never a time when we’re stagnant, and just staying in the same place. We are always moving either forward or backward as a leader, and our ministry is following right behind us.

3. Who have I personally reached (or am in the process of reaching) and seeing added to my church?

Is there anyone in your church who is there because of you? Are you being a soul-winner, a pursuer of people, an encourager, and hospitable towards the people you lead?

It’s easy in the ministry to let “paperwork” trump “people-work”, and become more focused on the “what” of the ministry rather than the “who” of the ministry.  But we must remember that what we’ve ultimately been called to do is make an eternal difference in the lives of people, including the lost. I personally have to keep myself in check on this one the most.

4. Am I making my pastor’s job easier or harder?

One of the purposes of church staff is to relieve the burden of the pastor in general as well as in specific areas of ministry. This doesn’t mean that the pastor doesn’t get involved or doesn’t care about other ministries, but he shouldn’t have to carry the weight of those ministries on a regular basis.

Protect your pastor’s time by doing the things he has hired you to do. Take initiative to lead and make decisions for your areas of ministry. While a good pastor certainly cares about you and your ministry, and will do whatever he can to help when possible, a good rule of thumb is to remember that you work for him, and not the other way around.  (For more thoughts on this, read 5 Essentials to Becoming a Star Staff Member)

While there are certainly many more things that could be added to this list, may these few cause us to do some self-evaluation.  May we never be guilty of being full-time staff members, but only part-time Christians.

May we strive only for excellence and progress in all that we do, as would be expected of us in any other career or field. Because our pastor, our church, and our God deserve it. And may we never take lightly the calling of God upon our lives to minister.  But may we do it by following the example of the greatest minister Himself, Jesus Christ.

Mark 10:45  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

Do you have some additional ways that you evaluate yourself to become better as a leader?  I’d love to hear them and learn from you!

Is Your Family Sex Positive or Sex Negative?

Sex… it’s been around for a while, and I’m guessing it’s not going away any time soon. 🙂  (Yes, take a deep breath, and lighten up because we’re talking about sex, and it’s going to be okay. Really. I promise.) 

Our sexuality is engrained within the very fabric of who God made us to be as human beings. God created us with sexual drives and desires, and they are a good thing. So why is the word and topic of ‘sex’ is such a taboo thing in our Christian families and homes?    

If you’re a millennial, does this scenario sounds familiar to you?…  Growing up as a kid, the topic of sex was rarely if ever discussed as a family.  In fact, the word sex was never used, but was kind of just the “forbidden” word.  You inadvertently grew up with the idea and impression that sex was bad and dirty, and so would you be if you ever did it.  The primary words heard surrounding the topic the few times it was mentioned seemed to always be in the negative – “don’t”… “impure”… “sinful”… “inappropriate”…”bad”.  

While our parents knew that sex was not a bad thing, (because, well, we’re all here, right?) they found it very difficult, almost unnecessary, to paint it in a positive light, maybe for fear of us knowing too much or engaging in it too soon. Fortunately, parents of previous generations were often able to get away with hiding the issue of sex from their children. However, that’s just not the case anymore.  

Times have certainly changed due to the sinful nature of man and the saturation of sex in the culture all around us.  And as parents we no longer have the convenience of ignoring the topic of sex.  Because if we fail to talk to our kids about sex, and their own sexuality, someone else certainly will.  

I firmly believe that Christian families should be sex positive, however, many of us who grew up in good Christian homes, very likely grew up in a sex negative environment. And maybe not even because that’s what it was purposefully meant to be, but that what it inadvertently became.

And so the question we need to think about is this… In today’s world, is this pattern healthy, and even more importantly, is it biblical?  Has the hush, hush nature and negative connotations surrounding the issue of sexuality in the home been beneficial for us personally in the past, or will it be for our children and our families both now and in the future?

Yes, there is a level of innocence we need to protect in our children until the time is right.  But there’s also a necessary balance between our level of honesty and naiveness about what our kids know and are exposed to at younger and younger ages than ever before.  Because the truth is that even if we don’t talk to them about it, they’re already thinking about it, and they already know more than we think they know.

Here’s a good way to get a feel for what kind of sex environment you may have in your home. Simply ask your kids these questions, and consider their honest responses…

  • “Is sex a good thing or a bad thing?”
  • “Is sex something okay to talk about in our home?”
  • “What does God think about sex?”

Their answers might surprise you, but will help you understand the type of culture you are creating around the issue.

Certainly there is a proper way and an improper way to address this in our homes, but the most important thing is that we are addressing it.  And the best place to start is with the Bible.

When God created Adam and Eve, He created them naked, and unashamed (Gen. 1:25). However, we know that after the fall, nakedness and shame began going hand in hand, and because of that we naturally shy away from open ended conversation about the topic.  Yet as parents, each of us know that every person (including our own children) has been made by the Creator with these God-given desires and passions that are meant to be good, yet they’re often played off as terribly bad by the way we talk (or, fail to talk) about them. 

So with these thoughts in mind, let me share with you a few practical ways to help your home become a sex positive environment.

1) Open conversation is good.  

Psalm 32:8  I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go…  

God gave parents to children to give them information, direction, and proper understanding about life. And let’s face it, sex will probably be a big part of their life, for the rest of their life.

Part of the difficulty of talking to our kids about sex is that we put it off so long until they are at an age that it’s quite awkward to even bring it up. However, when parents are intentional about teaching their children about their sexuality from a younger age, they open a conversation that will last for many years to come, and prepare their children for a lifelong understanding of, and greater success in, this area of their life.  

We should be able to discuss with our children God’s plan for sex, how He created it as a good thing that man has often made bad, and how we can use it biblically to honor God. By doing so, this also opens the door in the future for our children to come to us when they have questions rather than sneaking behind our backs to find them elsewhere.  

And let’s not be naive.  They do and will continue to have questions about sex.  So why should we be deceiving ourselves into thinking that they don’t, and allowing someone or something else to be providing those answers?

“How difficult do we make it for our children when God has wired them to think about their own sexuality, and we refuse to allow them a safe place to talk about it?” 

I recently heard a statistic that 95% of homes are silent or shaming of sex.  Whether that’s accurate or not, that ought to make us stop and think about some things in our own home, starting with this… Am I helping our hurting my family by not talking about this topic?… 

As for my wife and I, we personally chose to open up the conversation about sex with our children from young ages, and it has proved to be hugely beneficial for both them and for us, allowing us to have multiple conversations over the years about tough topics.  But the cool thing is this, because we talked about it early, and let our kids know that there are no off-limit questions, those conversation have rarely ever been awkward, because our children know that we actually want them to talk to us about these things.

Open conversation around the topic of sex is a good thing in the home.

2) Body awareness is good. 

Psalm 139:14  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  

Your child’s body is a beautiful and precious gift that God has given them to take care of, and a valuable gift to one day be given to their future spouse.  

They need to understand that their body is not a bad thing, it is a God-given thing with great purpose and value.  Don’t be afraid to talk with your children about their bodies, and don’t be afraid to refer to the parts of the body for what they are. Our children need to have a good self-esteem of their body and realize that God created them good.

But if all they ever hear about their body and sexuality is spoken and implied in the negative, we have done them a great disservice, and can create a real difficulty when they get married someday and have to mentally flip a switch that everything that used to be bad (their body) is now all of a sudden good.  

This terribly complicates things, and there’s definitely a better way.  Yes, God has given us rules for how to use and cover our bodies, and our children need to be warned about the dangers and destruction that can come from disregarding God’s plan.  However, they equally need to know that this is not because their bodies are bad, but rather, because they are very good, and worth protecting.  Our kids need to understand this.

3) Sex is good.   

Hebrews 13:4  Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.  

It’s time we help our children understand that because sex is a God-thing, sex is a good thing.  It’s something He created, and something beautiful that He loves, and has given to a husband and wife as a gift.  

There’s a right way and a wrong way, and a right time and a wrong time, to engage in awakening that part of who God created us to be. But it is our job as parents to help our children safely navigate through those waters

While we certainly have to use some common sense, let’s not be ashamed to talk about what God was not ashamed to create.  Because sex is a gift.  And sex is good.  Yes, the world has corrupted it in many ways, but that gives us that much more reason as parents to intentionally help our children see God’s perspective of their sexuality.  May we never let the world’s perversion of sex scare us from talking with our children about God’s pure and perfect plan for it.

As much as we may try to shelter our kids from the sexualized culture that is all around us, they are going to be exposed to more than we can ever fully control.  And whether we like it or not, sex is not going away.  

We can either choose to passively allow Hollywood, the culture, and our children’s friends to shape their view of sex by our silence, or we can choose to actively and intentionally teach and train them by refusing to remain silent.

Our goal is to one day be able to see them enter into their marriages not only pure, but prepared, because both are important.  And ready to help the next generation to have a Godly perspective of sexuality as well.

The choice is up to us… we can stick with a terribly flawed system of a sex negative mentality simply because “that’s just the way it’s always been done”, or we can turn the tide for future generations by creating a sex positive culture in our homes for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.  

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Do you agree or disagree?

Thanks for reading.  Here’s a list of helpful articles and other resources our family has used and would recommend to help you explore and discuss this sensitive topic with your kids.

If I can be a help to you, or answer any questions, please reach out to me and let me know. 

6 Small Daily Moments Parents Need to Prioritize

How to make out BIG on the little daily moments

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  Eph. 5:16

Have you noticed?… that the days we’re living in are evil?  Time is short… before our kids grow up into adults… before the impressionable years are gone… before Christ comes back again.

I was reminded of this just this past week as I was looking at two pictures of our oldest son that are less than three years apart.  

Wow… Time flies, and so do the impressionable moments and years we have to make an impact. 

Because every day, we have opportunities to influence our kids, regardless of how busy we may think we are.  And God has clearly commanded us to influence their lives “when we sit in our homes, when we walk by the way, when we rise up, and when we lie down.” (Deuteronomy 6:7) In order for that to play out in our busy day to day lives, we’ve got to make sure that we make out BIG on the little daily moments.  

So here are 5 small daily moments that you can’t afford to waste, but that you can easily turn into D6 (Deuteronomy 6) moments with your children:

1.  Morning Time

We are commanded to invest into our children when we “rise up.”  Every day, you have the opportunity to set the course for the attitude and direction of your family for the rest of the day. From the way you conduct your morning routine, you are either setting yourself and your family up for success or failure.  

Do you wake up with sufficient time for your family to get ready for the day?  Are your mornings calm or chaotic? Peaceful or stressful?  Are you waking up early enough to have a morning routine that is structured, smooth-flowing, and beneficial?  

Sadly many Christian families might find it hard to even squeeze a 1-minute prayer into their morning routine, but what an impact it could make on our family every day if we were to turn our mornings into D6 moments.

2.  Driving Time

Given the average lifespan, a person statistically spends 7% of their lifetime driving in a vehicle (source).  Even if that’s close to true, that means that a good chunk of the times we have together as a family are also spent driving.  

Which should cause us to consider… How can we spend that much of our family life together in a vehicle and not intentionally take advantage of it?  Are we using that time wisely or frivolously?  Is everyone doing their own isolated thing, or are we purposefully using any of that time together?  

Do we ever discuss the amazing world God has given us that’s passing us by on the other side of the glass… Are we having any meaningful conversations… Are we singing songs together… Do we ever just get crazy and have some fun… or anything else of value?  The command of Deuteronomy 6 implies that we are to invest into our children even when we travel (“when thou walkest by the way”).

3.  Meal Time

Sitting together at the dinner table is more important than ever to guard and prioritize, as eating together as a family continues to become more and more obsolete in many homes.  Yet amazing conversations can be had and memories can be made around a family dinner table.  If you’d like some ideas for family dinner conversation starters, here’s a list you can use.

4.  Down Time

Even when we’re “lying down”, the Bible commands us to invest into our children.  In other words, every moment of every day, even down time in our lives, is a D6 opportunity.  It might be when you see the beauty of creation in a sunset, or the amazing way that God made the world to work and sustain itself with such intricate detail.  However you choose to do it, find ways to regularly point your kids to the awesomeness of God in daily life, even in the down times.  

5.  Busy Time

Let’s admit it, there are times when “down time” is the farthest thing from reality, when we are just flat out busy. Errands to run, meals to cook, the yard to mow, events to attend.

But don’t ever mistakenly think that somehow this means that those times are off limits for investing into your kids. No. Just the opposite. Those are perfect opportunities to spend time together and invest into them by including them (or teaching them as necessary) those things on your to-do list.

“Very little of our parenting takes place in grand significant moments that have stopped us in our tracks and commanded our full attention; parenting takes place on the fly when we’re not really paying attention and are greeted with things that we did not know we were going to be dealing with that day.  It’s the repeated cycle of little unplanned moments that is the soul-shaping workroom of parenting.”  – Paul David Tripp in his book, PARENTING

6.  Bed Time

Start the day right, and end the day right.  And make sure that what happens before bedtime reflects what is most important in your family (God’s Word, prayer, family affection and unconditional love).

Studies have shown that kids who go to sleep regularly on a positive note, not only sleep better, but develop better with age as well.  Again, we are instructed to pass on our faith to our children even as we are “lying down”.  This is a great indicator of the importance of your family’s bedtime routine

Remember, parenting is like putting drops into a bucket over 18 years time.  Each one seems so small, yet every drop ripples the surface and raises the water level slightly.  And yet it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to make up for lost drops that we’ve chosen to ignore or squander.  

While all parents keep different schedules and it may be nearly impossible for you to maximize daily on all 6 of these daily moments, make sure you are taking advantage of as many of them as possible?  They’ll be gone before you know it.

Our lives are made up of many moments, and those moments quickly turn into months and years. And once gone, they’re gone forever.  So let’s redeem the time today by making out BIG on the small daily moments that we have been given.

Marriage & The Invisible Suitcase

And how its contents are affecting you and your family

Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation where the response that spewed out of you was far from desirable. In fact, it even made you wonder, “Where in the world did that just come from?”

And it didn’t take long for you to answer your own question, as you were able to mentally look at yourself in the mirror and see your parents and their responses and actions oozing out through your own.

You know, those things they did that you said you’d never repeat, yet you actually find yourself inadvertently responding in the exact same way.  Maybe in the area of criticism, anger, impatience or resentment.  Or maybe it’s simply a certain phrase, gesture, or quirk.

What you didn’t realize…

Think for a moment about the marriage you’ve been given and the marriage that you’ve ultimately created between you and your spouse.  When you stood together at that wedding altar with nothing but love and bliss and made those lifelong vows to each other, what neither of you realized at that moment was that both of you were carrying an invisible suitcase with you into your marriage that day.

This was a suitcase that neither of you could see, yet it’s contents were very real.  So real, that you would spend the rest of your married life unpacking them.  

You were vowing to love each other through all of the contents that you would later unpack in the months and years to come… for better or for worse.  Things that would affect your communication, the way you respond to hurt, your tone of voice in an argument, and even the way you relate to each other in the bedroom.

Someone’s been filling your suitcase…

All of us learn how to live life by having seen how our parents lived it.  They may have done a lot of things right, and they certainly did at least a couple of things wrong.  And every day of your childhood, they were planting seeds and packing things into this invisible suitcase that you would carry with you into the rest of your life, affecting every area of your life, yet all the while, unbeknownst to you (yes, I really did just use that archaic word).

You are a product of your parents, like it or not. But that doesn’t mean that you are destined to repeat their mistakes.  In fact, one of the greatest ways to learn anything in life is from the mistakes of others.  And if we don’t, well the saying holds true, that “history repeats itself”, even in family life.

The good news…

The good news is that the contents of your suitcase don’t determine the destiny of your life. The seeds that were planted into you during childhood are just that – seeds. Yes, they influence the shaping of your future, but they don’t determine it.  You get to do that.  Seeds only grow if they are watered and nurtured, but don’t have to grow unless you let them.

You see, while your parents shape the person that you become, it’s not ultimately your parents that determine the person that you are:

  • Because even a child who has “perfect” parents can allow sinful seeds and choices to ruin their future.
  • And just as much, a child who is raised in terrible dysfunction can actually turn out to be a very functional adult if they simply make different choices.

Marriage starts at birth…

I recently heard this statement that has stuck with me… “Marriage starts at birth.”  And it’s so very true.  None of us can escape the influences that have surrounded us and shaped us from the time we started this thing called life.  But each of us have the choice as to which ones we will allow to define us.

Just because your parents didn’t do certain things that they should have doesn’t mean that you can’t do them. (show physical affection, say “I love you”, give praise for doing things right, etc.)

And just because your parents did certain things that they shouldn’t have doesn’t mean that you’re destined to repeat them. (losing their temper, being physically or verbally abusive, failing to show up, etc.)

If we’ve been watering seeds of our past by making excuses like, “It’s just who I am,” or “That’s just how I was raised”, it’s time to stop making excuses and start taking responsibility by unpacking our suitcase of the bad, and start packing it with the good.  

It’s time to start packing the right things that we want to pass on to our children.  Because one day we’re going to hand them these suitcases that we have packed by our own choices.

Yes, we are the products of our past to a certain degree, but only to the degree that we choose to be, for either the good or the bad.  In your invisible suitcase… Keep the good. Get rid of the bad. Add some positive contributions of your own.  Then pass it on with pride to the next generation.

How to Put a Spiritual Spin on Fidget Spinners

They’ve taken the kid world by storm in just a matter of a few months… fidget spinners.  You can hardly go anywhere without seeing them in kids’ hands.

When it comes to adults there’s very little middle ground – you either like them or you don’t.  In fact, some adults go to super extremes on both ends.

However, one thing is for sure – Kids Absolutely Love Them!  And they’re probably not going away any time soon. Certainly not by the time you wake up tomorrow (or the next day for that matter).

What I’ve learned over the years is that if something becomes a hit with kids that takes the world by storm, parents and those who work with kids need to take notice, and use it to their advantage whenever possible.  And the fidget spinner is no exception. 

Remember, Jesus Himself was the Master of using practical objects of His day and culture to connect truth to the hearts of people, and in turn teach spiritual principles that He knew they would remember. I believe that we ought to do the same.

So how can we put a spin on all of this buzz to capitalize on the moment of the fidget spinner, and use it creatively to enhance our work with children, as well as teach memorable Bible principles in the moment, that may last for a lifetime?

Here are a few ideas that may help for how to put a spiritual spin on fidget spinners: (Thanks to my friend, Ryan Frank, for the inspiration for some of these ideas.)

1) Teach the Trinity

I asked my 7 year old son last night to look at his fidget spinner and tell me what he could learn about God from it.  He looked at it for a few seconds, and without any prompting from me, said, “God is three persons, but one God.” 🙂 

Most fidget spinners have 3 ends, which can represent the three different persons of the Trinity. But when you spin it, all three look like they are one.  God is three persons, yet one God.  Some spinners even have different light up capabilities in each end, representing that each of the persons of God is different, but they all work together to form the One Triune God. (I John 5:7, Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14)

I found it pretty cool that my son knew the answer I was thinking before I even told him.  Our kids will get it, if we just give them the chance to mentally connect the dots. 

2) Teach the Bible Basics

What are the Bible Basics?… Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers (church). Just like a fidget spinner wouldn’t balance on your finger without all three ends being the same, we need to have a healthy balance of all three of the Bible Basics in order to grow fully as a mature Christian. We can’t just read the Bible and pray when we come to church, we need to be doing those things on a regular, even daily basis to have good balance in our Christian life. (I Peter 2:2, Psalm 119:11, Matthew 6:9-13, Hebrews 10:25)

3)  Teach the Gospel

What are the parts of the Gospel?

  1. The Death
  2. The Burial
  3. And the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Just like a fidget spinner feels like it can spin for an eternity, believing in the Gospel can guarantee your eternity will be in Heaven.

How does someone accept the Gospel?

  1. Admit they are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
  2. Believe that Jesus died for their sin (Romans 10:9)
  3. Call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:10 & 13)

All three are necessary components of salvation.  Just like spinning a fidget spinner is simple, so is accepting the Gospel.  That’s why Jesus said we must be saved with a childlike faith.  These three things are not difficult, but they are essential.

When I mentioned to my son last night that the three parts of the fidget spinner can represent the three parts of the Gospel and the ABCs of salvation, he said this, “Yea, and the circles in the ends pop out so that you can replace them with different ones, just like Jesus takes away our black heart and gives us a new one.”  Once again, I was impressed with his creative thinking.  

I’m sure that these are just a few of many ideas.  How can you get creative to put a spiritual spin on fidget spinners? Because whether you love them or despise them, don’t fail to use them to the advantage of the kids in your life.  They’re even a great tool to encourage kids to use in witnessing to their friends by explaining these important Bible truths.

What other cool ways have you seen fidget spinners used, or what other ideas do you have for how to put a spin on the fidget spinner and maximize it’s potential to reach and teach children?

Bedtime Routines & Why They Matter to Your Kids

Over the years as a family, we’ve found that our children are often influenced by forces from outside of our home sometimes even more than they are by forces from within.  This has required us to become more intentional to not only invest into our kids, but also into strengthening our influence and investment into them on a daily basis.

And one of the best ways we’ve found to do that is through prioritizing one of the most precious and protected times of our day – bedtime.

Those moments in our home just before the kids are sent to bed are often some of the most precious moments we have together as a family. Its a time where we talk, we pray, we laugh, we share, we hug… and it’s a wonderful time that our family enjoys and anticipates.

Why?  Because counter to the noisy and busy world our families live in every day, the bedtime routine can become a warm and close environment that is both safe and relaxed, much the opposite of the rest of the day.  It’s a time where we can get personal, and it’s a time where we can sometimes get biblical.  

Oftentimes its serious, and other times it’s far from serious, but all in all, it’s a time where we can just be ourselves and tackle some of life’s issues together.

And don’t be fooled into believing that it comes easily… it doesn’t.  In fact, unless you prioritize this time as a family, things that are most urgent will crowd out things that are most important, and it may never happen.

If you haven’t established any bedtime routines in your home, I’d encourage you to consider trying some of these memorable ideas and the beneficial byproducts of a healthy bedtime routine:

  1. Storytelling.  Kids love stories.  Especially when you personally tell them the story or read it aloud to them.  They can be stories from books, stories from your past, or simply stories from your imagination.
  2. Scripture Memorization.  What better way to memorize a verse or passage than together as a family, and help your children hide God’s Word in their hearts? (Psalm 119:11)
  3. Quality Conversation.  Most families struggle to have real, quality, family conversation.  But what easier way to do it than to have a time scheduled and set aside for it to happen.  Don’t worry, just start with a verse, a thought, or a question, and let the conversation flow from there.  Try it, it really is easier than you think.
  4. Spiritual Investment.  There’s really nothing more important that investing into our kids spiritually.  So use this time for family devotions, teaching different character traits, discussing Bible stories, or talking about the Gospel.
  5. Personal Environment.  Make this time just before closing out your family’s day a close and relaxed time that they look forward to.  Have a plan, but don’t turn it into a church service either. 😃
  6. Singing Songs.  Families need to sing together, both in corporate worship, and in private worship.  When’s the last time your family sang together in your own home?  Believe me, your kids will love it, especially if you let them pick some of the songs.
  7. Showing Affection.  Nothing says I love you like a bear hug, a kiss on the forehead, and the spoken words, “I love you”, to close out your child’s day.
  8. Tucking In.  Tucking your kids in at night (especially if they’re still young) can be a huge deal to them, and put their mind at ease just before the lights go out, and a perfect opportunity for one last hug, kiss, or even the piggy toes.
  9. Using a Personal Routine or Phrase.  Consider coming up with a personal phrase between you and each child, or maybe a nickname, a special handshake, etc.  Whatever you do, the fact that it’s unique and personal to them makes all the difference and communicates love to them.

Bedtime… you may just find out for yourself that if you prioritize it, it has the potential to become one of the most memorable and beneficial times in your home as well.